Friday, August 17, 2007

Why skepticism's healthy

Yesterday I received a press release for, which appeared to be a ad-based legal music download site. It seemed interesting, so I visited the site.

I tried looking at the new releases, the downloads available, and the catalogue, but all required registration before showing any information. This is a marked contrast to, which lets you look through various playlists to check out the variety of their content before requiring registration.

Frustrated at the lack of information, I opened up YourFreeMusicDowload's Terms of Use. That's where things got interesting.

According to the press release,
Your Free Music does not embed ads within the music or before or after each selection. Instead, when registering, users are simply asked to complete a short survey that generates revenue for Your Free Music
- Seems straightforward enough.

The first clause of the Terms of Use require registration -- fair enough. The second, though, says:

You must tell two or more friends about our website. You must only enter the names and email addresses of people you know and who trust and accept email from you.

- Not mentioned in the press release. Personally, warning bells always go off when I'm required to sell to friends.

While the press release talks about a "short survey," the fifth clause of the Terms of Use gets to the meat of the matter.

5. Verification of Sponsor Offer Participation. Each Sponsor must provide written verification to Your Free Music that you have successfully qualified for and completed that Sponsor's offer. Following Your Free Music receipt of such verification from the last of the requisite number of Sponsors, Your Free Music will send an email message to you asking you to confirm your account registration. The qualification time varies by Sponsor, but may take up to 30 days. In some cases an additional step by you is required to satisfy the Sponsor's qualifications. By way of example... a Sponsor offer for a credit card... may require you to use the credit card to make a purchase, take a cash advance, or transfer a balance, to satisfy the Sponsor's qualifications.

- So in order to get "free" MP3s, you have to accept the promotional offers from several sponsors. In other words, you have to receive and use a credit card, spend money purchasing products, and so on in order for your registration to be validated.

And notice that "Each sponsor music provide...verification" before you have access to the catalog. Based on the language, if you don't participate in all the offers, your registration is invalidated, and no free music for you!

After reading the Terms of Use, I googled "yourfreemusicdownloads" and found, amidst the many repostings of the press release, an article from Wired that confirmed my suspicions.

The moral of this little tale? A little bit of research can save you a whole lot of trouble. It only took me about four minutes to go from reading the initial press release to finding the Wired article. Look before you leap (or click).

- Ralph

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